Trust me, it’s really easy to slow down – or even to stop – as you reach middle age. First of all, there are those darn aches and pains that suddenly seem to come out of nowhere. You suddenly find your lower back tightens up or you start having a case of plantar fasciitis that causes you to limp when you get out of bed in the morning. Sitting seems like a good idea most of the time, especially it’s become a habit thanks to working on the computer and watching television. But don’t! You heard me right. That’s because several recent studies highlight the importance of physical activity in being able to age in a healthy way.
The first study out of Sweden found that healthy living – which includes consuming a healthy diet, regular physical exercise and continuing healthy habits, such as not smoking – can increase a woman’s life span by five years. This study, which was published on BMJ, involved 1,810 women and men over an 18-year period (from 1987 to 2005). The participants were all 75 years old or older. The researchers studied each participant’s decisions related to health, social networks and leisure. While 91.8 percent of the study participants died during the study, half of the participants lived beyond their 90th birthday.
The researchers found that physical activity was a key factor in determining the participants’ survival. They found that study participants who regularly swam, walked or did gymnastics lived an average of two years more than study participants who were sedentary. Their analysis also found that the study participants who adopted lifestyle behaviors, participated in at least one leisure activity, and had an active social network most often lived 5.4 years longer than those who didn’t adopt these behaviors. A similar gap was seen among study participants who were 85 years or older and those who had chronic conditions. The participants who had a healthy lifestyle, participated in a leisure activity and had a good social network lived approximately four years longer than those who did not take these actions. Another finding from this research was that 50 percent of the study participants who smoked died one year earlier than those who were not smokers. Interestingly, the researchers also found that former smokers’ survival rate was similar to those who had never smoked.
This study comes on the heels of another research study that I wrote about for HealthCentral’s diet and exercise site. That study out of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center analyzed data such as body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol l and glucose levels from 18,670 healthy individuals who were an average age of 45 in 1999. The scientists found that fitness levels were significantly associated with a lower risk of developing chronic diseases during the next quarter century. For instance, chronic disease for women in the lowest 20 percent of fitness scores was 20 percent per year; in comparison, the rate for this type of disease was 11 percent for women in the highest 20 percent of fitness scores.
If that’s enough motivation for you, here’s another one – the cash in your wallet. A study presented earlier this year found that fit middle-aged men and women actually had significantly lower medical expenses later in life when their data was compared to individuals who didn’t stay active. This study, which was collaboration between the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute, used data from the Cooper Center’s Longitudinal Study. The study found that individuals in the least-fit group at the start of the study had higher risk factors such as smoking and diabetes. They also found that the average annual medical claims for the least-fit women amounted to $4,565; this figure was approximately 40 percent higher than the claims of the most fit women ($2,755).
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
BMJ. (2012). Healthy living into old age can add up to six years to your life.
Holohan, E. (2012). Fitness in middle age lowers medical costs later: study. HealthDay.
Martin, D. (2012). Study: Being fit at middle age may delay chronic diseases. HealthCentral.
Published On: September 10, 2012